Szechuen Pepper

Szechuen / Sichuan / Szechuan pepper despite the name is not related to black pepper or chilli peppers. It is widely used in the cuisine of Sichuan, China, from which it takes the name. It is also popular in Tibetan, Bhutanese, Nepalese and Japanese cuisines.

Szechuen pepper is known also as flower pepper, mountain pepper (not to be confused with Tasmanian mountain pepper), fagara, timur, Chinese pepper, Japanese pepper, aniseed pepper, sprice pepper, Chinese prickly-ash, sansho, Nepal pepper or Indonesian lemon pepper.

Szechuen pepper has unique aroma and flavour that is not hot or pungent, but has slight lemony and woody overtones and creates in the mouth a kind of tingly numbness that sets the stage for hot spices. Recipes often suggest lightly toasting and then crushing the tiny seedpods before adding them to food, usually towards the end of cooking. Only the husks are used and seeds are discarded or ignored.

Szechuen peppercorns are one of the traditional ingredients in the Chinese five-spice and also shichimi togarashi, a Japanese seven-flavour seasoning.

Your thoughts…

  1. I love the flavor and numby-ness of Sichuan pepper, but whenever I use it, it’s too gritty – maybe because I don’t get rid of the seeds?

  2. Thank you for your comment Vicki, I bought recently this pepper and it has some seeds in it that I crush together with husks in mortar… and it is ok but yes, discarding seeds may help. You may also want to use cotton / muslin spice bags:
    http://www.coffeeandvanilla.com/?p=4192
    which you remove at the end of cooking.

  3. I love to visit your blog, because I always got something new.
    I never use szechuen pepper before, M.

  4. I love shichimi togarashi but didn’t realize it had this kind of pepper in it.

  5. Hooray for shichimi togarishi!

  6. Hi Margot this is a great post and very informative. I was reading about the Szechuen pepper only yesterday in one of my books.

    Btw re:peanut butter cake ~ I hope to pull a few books off my shelf this evening and look through to see if I can find a recipe for you :D

    Oh it snowed here in Lincs this morning then stopped but it’s soooo cold brrrrrr…..

    Best wishes Rosie x

  7. In India, we have pepper rice – with cracked black pepper and clarified butter. I think szechuan peppers will be a great alternative in that dish. Beautiful pictures; I love your blog!

  8. Great post! I love the zingy spiciness of peppercorn but am not too familiar with using Szechuen peppers. The ones in the photo look fresh. Where do you source yours? Thanks.

  9. those pictures are just gorgeous! great post :)

  10. I’m glad to hear that! :)
    Thank you for all the comments.

    Ingrid – Szechuen pepper I bought is from Fiddes Payne and is available for instance in Budgens.

  11. I don’t use it often enough, love the photos!

  12. This pepper is great in so many dishes. My favorite is to use them with eggplants.

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